2020 coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom
|First case||York, North Yorkshire, England|
|Arrival date||31 January 2020|
(9 months ago)
|Origin||Wuhan, Hubei, China|
|'Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice' at www.gov.uk[nb 2]|
The ongoing pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), spread to the United Kingdom in early 2020. The first cases were identified in late January, and transmission within the UK was confirmed in late February, and there was a rapid increase in cases in March. As of 13 April, there have been 88,621 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK,[nb 3] and 11,329 people with confirmed infection have died.[nb 1]
On 12 January, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus had caused a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, which had initially come to the attention of the WHO on 31 December 2019. The UK subsequently developed a prototype specific laboratory test for the new disease. The four UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) raised the UK risk level from low to moderate on 30 January, upon the WHO's announcement of the disease as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). After confirmed cases appeared in the UK on 31 January a public health information campaign was launched to advise people how to lessen the risk of spreading the virus. Further cases in early February prompted the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, to introduce the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 statutory instrument. Guidance on infection prevention and control, how to detect and diagnose COVID-19, and daily updates, including advice to travellers, have been published by the UK's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE). In addition, the National Health Service (NHS) set up COVID-19 drive-through screening centres at some hospitals. The Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty, explained a four-pronged strategy to tackle the outbreak: contain, delay, research and mitigate.
The earliest documented transmission within the UK appeared on 28 February 2020; all of the cases detected previously are believed to have been infected abroad. By 1 March, cases had been detected in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Subsequently, Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the Coronavirus Action Plan, and the government declared the outbreak a "level 4 incident". On 11 March, the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic. Other responses included some schools in England choosing to close. Airlines announced a number of flight cancellations, and some online retailers reported consumers placing unusually large orders. On 12 March, the UK risk level was raised from moderate to high. Four days later, following the outbreak in Italy, whose health system shares similar values and organisation to the NHS, and based on evidence including forecasting by epidemiologists at Imperial College London, the government advised on further measures on social distancing and advised people in the UK against "non-essential" travel and contact with others, as well as suggesting people should avoid pubs, clubs and theatres, and work from home if possible. Pregnant women, people over the age of 70, and those with certain health conditions were urged to consider the advice "particularly important", and were asked to self-isolate.
On 18 March, it was announced that the UK would close all schools except for children of key workers and vulnerable children. On 20 March, all restaurants, pubs, clubs, and indoor sport and leisure facilities were ordered to close, though delivery and take-out chains were allowed to remain open. On 23 March, the government announced that in order to protect the NHS, these measures were to be tightened further, with wide-ranging restrictions made on freedom of movement, enforceable in law, resulting in the Coronavirus Act 2020, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 and other similar statutory instruments covering the other home nations.
In late March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson developed COVID-19 symptoms and tested positive for the virus. On 5 April, he was hospitalised due to the coronavirus and was moved to an intensive care unit the following day. Johnson nominated his First Secretary of State, Dominic Raab, to deputise for him. On 9 April, Johnson was released from intensive care, and left hospital on 12 April.
Background[edit source | edit]
On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.
The case fatality ratio for COVID-19 has been much lower than SARS of 2003, but the transmission has been significantly greater, with a significant total death toll. From 19 March, Public Health England no longer classified COVID-19 as a "High consequence infectious disease".
Timeline[edit source | edit]
Late January 2020 – first cases[edit source | edit]
On 22 January, following a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States the previous day, in a man returning to Washington from Wuhan, China, where there were 440 confirmed cases at the time, the DHSC and PHE raised the risk level from "very low" to "low". As a result, Heathrow Airport received additional clinical support and tightened surveillance of the three direct flights that it received from Wuhan every week; each were to be met by a Port Health team with Mandarin and Cantonese language support. In addition, all airports in the UK were to make written guidance available for unwell travellers. Simultaneously, efforts to trace 2,000 people who had flown into the UK from Wuhan over the previous 14 days were made.
On 31 January, two members of a family of Chinese nationals staying in a hotel in York, one of whom studied at the University of York, became the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK. Upon confirmation, they were transferred from Hull University Teaching Hospital to a specialist isolation facility, a designated High Consequence Infectious Diseases Unit in Newcastle upon Tyne. The index case for the UK, a 50-year-old female who had travelled from Hubei province and entered the UK on 23 January, had developed fever and fatigue after three days. Her close household contact, a 23-year-old student who had travelled from Hubei province on 6 January, developed symptoms on 28 January.
On the same day, an evacuation flight from Wuhan landed at RAF Brize Norton and the passengers, none of whom were showing symptoms, were taken to quarantine, in a staff residential block at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral. There had previously been contention over whether the government should assist the repatriation of UK passport holders from the most affected areas in China, or restrict travel from affected regions altogether. Some British nationals in Wuhan had been informed that they could be evacuated but any spouses or children with mainland Chinese passports could not. This was later overturned, but the delay meant that some people missed the flight.
February 2020 – early spread[edit source | edit]
On 6 February, a third confirmed case, a man who had recently travelled to Singapore and then France, was reported in Brighton. He had been the source of infection to six of his relatives in France, before returning to the UK on 28 January. Following confirmation of his result, the UK's CMOs expanded the number of countries where a history of previous travel associated with flu-like symptoms – such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing – in the previous 14 days would require self-isolation and calling NHS 111. These countries included China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.
On 10 February, the total number of cases in the UK reached eight as four further cases were confirmed in people linked to the affected man from Brighton. Globally, the virus had spread to 28 countries. That day, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, announced the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, to give public health professionals "strengthened powers" to keep affected people and those believed to be a possible risk of having the virus, in isolation. The following day, two of the eight confirmed cases in the UK were reported by BBC News to be general practitioners (GPs). A ninth case was confirmed in London on 11 February.
On 27 February, the total number of confirmed cases in the UK were reported as 16, including the first case in Northern Ireland – a woman who had travelled from the outbreak area in northern Italy, and flew from Milan to Dublin and by train to Belfast.
On 28 February, the first case in Wales was confirmed in a person who had returned from Northern Italy. The same day, two further cases were confirmed in England, one of whom was a man who became the 20th case of COVID-19 in the UK and the first case who did not contract the disease from abroad. He was a resident in Surrey and registered at the Haslemere Health Centre, which had previously been closed for "deep cleaning".
On 29 February, three further cases of the virus were confirmed, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 23, after 10,483 people had been tested. Two of the three affected people had recently returned from Italy while the third had come back from Asia. On the same day, Scottish CMO,